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ANDERSON COOPER 360 DEGREES
Abuse Allegations Rock Syracuse University; New Questions in Natalie Wood Murder
Aired November 18, 2011 - 22:00 ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Good evening, everyone. It is 10:00 here on the East Coast.
Major new developments in the Penn State child sex abuse scandal. We learned that fired head coach Joe Paterno has lung cancer, that the NCAA is investigating Penn State for how it handled abuse allegations, that in addition to investigating possible wrongdoing by the university. According to a new report, federal authorities may also have good reason to investigate Jerry Sandusky, because Sandusky crossed state lines with some of his accusers.
We've also learned from CNN contributor Sara Ganim, who joins us shortly, that another accuser has gone to police and may go to the grand jury and that there now may be accusers with abuse allegations dating back to the '70s.
Then, late today, another report surfaced. It concerns Sandusky's former charity, Second Mile, the one he founded and allegedly employed to recruit victims while projecting a saintly image to the community. Second Mile's chief executive, David Woodle, telling both "The New York Times" and the local "Patriot-News" the organization could end up folding. That's one of three options he laid out that in his words, in the end, nothing of the Second Mile exists. He tells the local paper that no final decision has yet been made.
Now, the move matters because Second Mile faces a potential civil liability nightmare if the allegations against Sandusky are true and Second Mile turned a blind eye. They're launching an internal investigation, but, "Keeping Them Honest," have been less than forthcoming with the public so far about what they knew and when they knew it.
See, in 2002 when the graduate assistant Mike McQueary says he saw Sandusky raping a boy on campus, he told Joe Paterno, then later the athletic director Tim Curley. Curley told the grand jury he notified the group Second Mile. Yet Second Mile did not bar Sandusky from contact with kids until 2008. Six years. No comment on that today from Second Mile. Nor was there any comment on a report in the "New York times" that several years of organization records were missing and possibly stolen.
Unnamed investigators telling "The Times" that the missing files may make it tough to determine whether Sandusky used charity money to recruit, to groom, or travel with possible victims. No comment either on a separate report. NBC news citing a senior law enforcement source saying the FBI may be looking to open its own investigation into whether Sandusky broke federal law whether he transported a minor across state lines to commit child abuse.
One boy identified in the grand jury report as victim number four says Sandusky repeatedly abused him including at out of state college bowl games. Then there's a late center county District Attorney Ray Gricar, who investigated alleged victim six's allegations back in 1998 and decide not to prosecute. Well, it turns out there is no paperwork or decision memo laying out the decisions why he refused to prosecute. In fact, we've learned the DA's office has no files on the case whatsoever and possibly never kept any files. We'll ask our legal panel about all that.
As for the decision memo an assistant DA tells us he searched for one to comply with Pennsylvania right to know laws but found nothing. Gricar, you'll remember, vanished six years ago. He was later declared legally dead. But at least the DA's office has to comply with public record laws. Penn State, they don't. The university has made none of its records available to the media, none of them.
Tonight, reacting to the NCAA investigation, school officials put out a statement -- quote -- "Penn State intercollegiate athletics tends to fully cooperate with the NCAA during its inquiry and understands that this is a preliminary step toward understanding what happened as well as how to prevent anything similar from happening in the future."
Lots to talk about starting on the ground in state college Pennsylvania, with CNN contributor Sara Ganim. She's been breaking news almost daily for her paper "The Patriot-News."
Sara thanks for being with us. You've spoke with lawyers who say there are new victims coming forward.
SARA GANIM, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Yes, I spoke to two lawyers who said since Jerry Sandusky's NBC interview in prime time on Monday, they have had several calls from potential new victims who said they're coming out and speaking about this abuse for the first time to these lawyers because of what Jerry Sandusky said. They felt compelled to come forward, triggered specifically by that interview.
Now, it's not clear how many there are and it's not clear how many are going to go to police and give a statement or go to a grand jury and testify. Some of them date back to the 1970s. So in some cases the statute of limitations may have run out. It's not clear the range of abuse from those victims. However, we are seeing a lot of reports of more people coming forward.
COOPER: The Second Mile, is it likely they're going to close?
GANIM: Well, you know, the CEO told us today that it's one of three options. They're hoping it's not what they have to do, but right now they're taking some time to talk to donors, to talk to the schools that help them with their programs, that facilitate those programs to see what they think they can do, what going forward is the best option. I think there are three options here. They can continue on as the Second Mile. They can continue on doing the things that Second Mile did under a different name. Or they might have to shut down.
COOPER: The news today that Paterno has lung cancer, was this information out there under the radar, or is this in fact new information?
GANIM: Well, specifically lung cancer, yes, that's new information. I think it's surprising to a lot of students on campus. However, Joe Paterno is 84 years old. He's been the subject of speculation and health rumors for a long time because of his age and because last season he had kind of an intestinal kind of illness and he also had some bumps with players during practice that left him with health problems. So people like to talk about Joe Paterno's health. But this is one of the first really serious allegations -- it's not an allegation, but really serious assertions of a health problem.
COOPER: Where did this story surface? Was this something his family released? The university released? How did people learn of this? Do you know?
GANIM: His son released it today and really asked just that people respect his privacy. Well, because he is going to have to go through some treatment.
COOPER: OK. Sara Ganim, appreciate it. Thanks.
Let's bring in our legal panel, Senior Legal Analyst Jeffrey Toobin and Criminal Defense Attorney Mark Geragos.
So, I mean, these missing documents -- it's just weird, first of all, this DA, you know, who's dead, I mean, that's a whole other bizarre story, but these missing documents from Second Mile and even from the DA's office, files that don't exist. What do you make of that?
JEFFREY TOOBIN, CNN SENIOR LEGAL ANALYST: I draw a distinction between the two.
TOOBIN: It's very serious if Second Mile's documents don't exist. It's an ongoing organization. They're required to keep records. If they were gone just because they were chaotic and -- that's one thing, but if someone actually got rid of them, that's potentially another crime in and of itself.
I'm less impressed or -- I think it's less significant that there is no record of a closed investigation. When I was a prosecutor, when we closed an investigation we didn't necessarily do a memo about it. The records were kept somewhere, if we subpoenaed records, but there is not a formal process for closing an investigation, particularly in a small DA's office.
COOPER: The Second Mile's records would be important because it would be Sandusky's expense reports --
TOOBIN: His travel.
COOPER: His travel across state lines or not.
TOOBIN: I mean, one of the issues that I think is really important here. Do you know how many different investigations are going on now? You have the attorney general, that's one -- she's brought the charges. You have this federal department of investigation. You have an internal Penn State investigation. You now potentially have the FBI. They're all going to want to interview the same witnesses. They're going to have to straighten out who does what or it is all going to gets messed up. This happens a lot in big cases. So, they have got to sort that out.
COOPER: Mark, is this just piling on? I mean, all the difference organizations wanting to get in on this, or what do you?
MARK GERAGOS, CRIMINAL DEFENSE ATTORNEY: Right. Anytime you have this kind of attention and media scrutiny, you're always going to have everybody drawn to it like prosecutorial moths to a flame. And Jeff has hit it right on the head here.
The problem is if you start interviewing these people and you start getting successive stories and like you've seen with McQueary, you already have kind of an evolution of the story, you start having witnesses start to tell different stories, it's a prosecutorial nightmare.
TOOBIN: But McQueary in particular. I mean, he already has --
COOPER: Because there's only so many times you can interview somebody -- I mean, if you're interviewing victims over and over and over again by multiple agencies, that just seems redundant and not --
TOOBIN: It's also painful given particularly the accusations here. But even if you are telling the truth, even if you are a perfectly truthful witness, if you are asked five times to recount the same events, you're going to do it slightly different each time. You will then be cross-examined about, well, why did you say this to this person? Why did you say this to this person?
I mean, McQueary, remember, he sent that e-mail out to his friends saying he did report the rape to the police whereas the grand jury report says he didn't. Those are already two stories out there. The more people tell the stories, the more different investigations, the harder it will be.
COOPER: I guess McQueary could be claiming -- and again I don't know what he was meaning in this e-mail. But he could be claiming that one of the guys he talked to oversaw the campus police and maybe in his mind that was --
TOOBIN: That's -- potentially. But the problem is the statements are now out there and he's going to have to explain it. If you only have one person you're talking, to the odds of clicking stories are much --
COOPER: So Mark, how do multiple different agencies work that out? I mean, who talks to them when --
GERAGOS: Well, somebody -- right. At some point somebody's going to just big foot it and says, this is our investigation, this is our prosecution. My guess is it's going to be the attorney general. And they're going to say to everybody else you've got to step aside.
That's why to some degree this NCAA investigation I understand they want to act like they're doing something, but it's actually quite silly. In this sense, what is the NCAA going to do at this point until all of these facts are out, until we've had some kind of a hearing, until there's cross-examination in this case?
I don't understand what the NCAA thinks they're doing. It's utterly ridiculous.
Going back to Jeff's previous point about the lack of a prosecutorial memo, in state court and in most DA's offices, they do have what's called a reject. I don't know if Pennsylvania specifically, this DA's office does, but here in L. A. virtually every case where the DA gets a case for felony filling. they have got to fill out a form. They have to say exactly why they did it. And that is one of the things that goes in to the file and it follows the file around.
So, to some degree that could be a problem later on for the prosecutors as well. I don't understand why they wouldn't have anything, especially when you're talking about a case that's so emotionally charged, number one, and so potentially high-profile.
GERAGOS: Well, just good luck finding anything, 13 years later.
TOOBIN: I mean, just dealing with the nature of what it's like. I mean, I was in the U.S. attorney's office. We had slightly different policies. But, I mean, going back to find old records in any business is difficult. But particularly you're dealing with small offices. I mean, it's just really hard to reconstruct this stuff.
COOPER: Does the announcement of Joe Paterno's lung cancer, does that affect anything for Paterno?
TOOBIN: Yes. I think it's very significant because -- I hope he recovers. But lung cancer in an 84-year-old is a very serious thing.
COOPER: I mean, he's not facing any other part of this investigation, is he?
TOOBIN: Well, at a minimum he's a witness. People are going to want to talk to him. He may not be in a position to talk to people. Sorry, I'm sorry, go ahead, Mark.
GERAGOS: I was just going to say my experience is when you have somebody who's led a life like he does and now all of the sudden everything comes crashing down around you, I have had the experience countless times where this is the worst that can happen to somebody and you just -- your prayers go out to the family. Because this is not something where you've got a mental state that's been torn apart to begin with, in the last 11 days, then you compounded with the health issues, and I think to some degree there's been that story that's been floating around about the transfer of the house for $1. Well, was that done because of a health issue, as supposed to shielding assets? It gives a lot more import I think to some of them and hopefully perspective to some of this.
COOPER: Now, Mark Geragos thanks for being on. Jeff Toobin as well.
TOOBIN: Thank you.
COOPER: Let us know what you think. We're on Facebook, Google+. Add us to your circles or follow me on Twitter @AndersonCooper. I will be tweeting tonight as well.
Up next: another university athletic program, another sex abuse allegation, another coach under a cloud. There are differences, though. We're talking about what's happening, allegations now being made at Syracuse University. Differences between the way Penn State handled it and the way Syracuse is handling it. We'll talk about that ahead. We'll show you how the cases are different. We've got latest from Syracuse. And we'll talk to Drew Pinsky.
Also, Congress promising to cut the budget deficit. They promised, remember, booted for tough penalties if they failed? And now they're failing and looking for ways to squirm out of the penalty. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
And later, "Up Close": Decades after Natalie Wood died at sea under mysterious circumstances, a really bizarre shocking development at the time it was ruled an accident. Today, that conclusion is being revisited, investigation reopened. We've got the latest details on that.
COOPER: Another college sport powerhouse is in the spotlight tonight, New York's Syracuse University. Basketball associate head coach Bernie Fine is on administrative leave as authorities investigate claims of child molestation dating back to the 1980s. Two former ball boys claim that Fine touched them inappropriately. Both are speaking out on ESPN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
BOBBY DAVIS, ALLEGED SEX ABUSE VICTIM: Honestly, I don't even remember if I thought that was what was supposed to happen. You know, I know I cringed up and didn't want it to happen and I was very like what's going on? It was just -- I just remember being disgusted in a sense, you know. But that's when everything -- you know, when he started trying to touch me -- my private. MIKE LANG, ALLEGED SEX ABUSE VICTIM: I can't -- probably 15, 20 times. When you tell him that -- you know, first he just -- when he first did it you move away and you want to say anything because you, you know, didn't feel like you were capable of saying anything, you know? He's a God to you. You know?
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: A 2005 investigation by the university found no evidence of wrongdoing. Fine denies the allegations. For the very latest let's bring in Ed Lavandera in Syracuse -- Ed.
ED LAVANDERA, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Hi, Anderson.
Well, late this afternoon, Bernie Fine put out a statement through his attorney. In that statement, he patently denied and called these allegations false. He said he looks forward to defending himself against these allegations.
He also went on to say that: "Sadly, we live in an allegation- based society in an Internet age where in a matter of minutes one's lifelong reputation can be severely damaged. I am confident that, as in the past, a review of these allegations will be discredited and restore my reputation. I hope the latest review of these allegations will be conducted expeditiously."
And what he's referring to there, as you mention Anderson, is back in 2005, Syracuse police investigated this.
According to the accusers and the university here, the charges weren't brought because it was past the statute of limitations. But a but also the university says they had hired a law firm to investigate these allegations as well, interviewed four people that were connected to this, that were brought forth as witnesses by the accusers, and that none of those people could corroborate the evidence against the assistant coach here at Syracuse, of course, all of this intense scrutiny going on in the wake of the Penn State scandal as well. We want to hear a little bit more from one of those accusers who talked to ESPN last night.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DAVIS: If I -- you know, first he would start rubbing my leg, and then you know, he's sitting next to me rubbing my leg and then just gradually put his hand down my pants and tried to grab my penis. And if I resisted, which I did all the time, he would get more aggressive, you know. And grab it. And you know, say just relax, just relax. And if I didn't, he'd yank it and try to pull it, you know. Relax, relax. He'd keep saying that.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: So these are the same two guys who are make the allegations now who made the allegations back in 2005 that the police didn't investigate because the statute of limitations had expired and the university says they hired outside counsel and had a four-month investigation and could not corroborate anything that was said using the witnesses that these two men suggested, correct? So it's not new allegations. It's basically just old allegation.
LAVANDERA: Exactly. But the Syracuse police -- now, the city of Syracuse police saying that they have reopened this investigation. That forced the university here to put the coach on administrative leave.
LAVANDERA: We've been trying to get in touch with the police department to figure out what caused them to reopen this investigation and bring it up again. We haven't been able to get any answers from the police department.
COOPER: It could very well be publicity over what's happening at Penn State and not wanting to appear as if they're brushing it away. Syracuse head coach Jim Boeheim, what is he saying about the allegations?
LAVANDERA: Well, you know, Anderson, this is a real interesting part, you know. As one student put it to us today, remember Jim Boeheim is to Syracuse what Joe Paterno is to Penn State down in Pennsylvania. This is a man who has coached in this community for more than three decades. He is highly respected. His voice and his opinion, carries a lot of weight around here. And Jim Boeheim has come out in strong defense of his assistant coach, saying he has the full support of his assistant coach, believes these charges are false.
In fact, in an ESPN -- an ESPN interview, basically said that these two accusers were lying. Interestingly enough, Syracuse basketball team was practicing here tonight. We didn't hear anything from the coach. But we are playing a game tomorrow afternoon. And in the media gathering after the game we expect to hear from Boeheim at that time.
COOPER: All right. Ed, I appreciate the reporting. Thank you.
Whether or not any or all or none of the allegations against Mister Fine and Jerry Sandusky are true, people everywhere talking about child sex abuse.
We saw this during the heart of the priest sex abuse scandals. People wanting to know more about how abusers operate all too frequently, how powerful institutions try protect themselves.
I talked about it earlier tonight with Dr. Drew Pinsky, host of HLN's "Dr. Drew" and Pete Thamel, who covers sports for the "New York times."
COOPER: So Pete, you graduated from Syracuse. You've also reported for the local newspaper there. Did you hear any whispers of these types of accusations against Bernie Fine? PETE THAMEL, "THE NEW YORK TIMES": You know, Anderson, the only thing I knew was that it was after I left my job at the "Post Standard." I knew that ESPN and the "Post Standard" had looked into these allegations in 2003 and that both of them are decided not to run the story. That was my only knowledge coming into yesterday.
COOPER: Dr. Drew, I want to play some of what the accusers told ESPN.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
QUESTION: When did Bernie Fine begin to act unlike a father figure and like something else entirely?
DAVIS: I think he always tried to act like the father figure and to try to put that on my mind, now that I look back at it. But probably when I was, you know, sixth grade, 11, 10 years old, and then he started trying to touch me and things like that.
COOPER: Dr. Drew, it is typical for child sex predator if they're not the kind to grab a kid, to groom children.
DR. DREW PINSKY, HLN HOST: Yes, that is certainly the more common situation, where these guys go through great lengths to groom them and develop relationships and build trust and then they start testing. They start touching them in ways to see how the kids react.
And it's in fact the kids that are at most risk, what we call high-risk kids who have been abandoned or neglected at home or abuse at home or come from broken families, who respond to any sort of physical touch, generally it is sort of a positive way. They really want that kind of touch and affection because they have not been getting it.
And the victimizer sees that there's no pushing away. Then they go a little further. And what typically happens to the victims is they freeze. And that free response, which is something that's very typical in victims, is what gives the victimizers the opportunity to really move in.
COOPER: Pete, it does seem like the way Syracuse University responded to these allegations is very different from the way Penn State handled the allegations against Sandusky.
THAMEL: Yes. And I think Anderson. That it's important to realize here that the Syracuse allegations are just allegations at this point where the Penn State there was a three-year investigation and a grand jury report that was released.
So -- but yes, you're absolutely correct. Jim Boeheim came out very strong in defense of his long-time assistant coach, Bernie Fine, in this situation. It was really remarkable how much he did say and what lengths he went to defend Bernie.
COOPER: And, Dr. Drew, in the Syracuse case, the alleged victims waited for years to come forward. In one case the abuse supposedly continued until the victim was 27 years old. Is that unusual?
PINSKY: It's not unusual at all for people to remain in silence. And it's also not unusual that until other people speak up that the victims begin to speak up.
COOPER: In both cases, Dr. Drew, Syracuse and Penn State, a lot of doubts have been raised about the credibility of the accusers. What would prompt somebody to lie about being sexually abused as a child?
PINSKY: Well, they're alleging that this case it is money. It's also the case that sometimes people who have been severely abused will misinterpret what is otherwise relatively innocent contact as abuse. That happens. That happens out in the world.
COOPER: Pete, Penn State is synonymous with college football, Syracuse synonymous with college basketball. There's got to be a lot of concern on campus that this, even a hint of a kind of scandal, would affect the program.
THAMEL: Sure. You know, I'm obviously at state college now and have been here for a while and I talked to our reporter Greg Bishop who's up in Syracuse today.
And certainly there's a pall over that place which certainly prides itself on basketball. And clearly I mean, that's the university's defining image nationally is the carrier dome and the orange of Syracuse.
So, you know, the university was very proactive unlike Penn State in issuing a response. They put Bernie Fine on administrative leave last night. Chancellor Nancy Cantor made that decision. And this morning, she sent a letter to the alumni at 8:00 a.m. just overlying how they were reacting to things.
So, there's obviously in the wake of Penn State grave concerns at Syracuse.
COOPER: And police say they're looking into it, but from everything I have read it sounds like police looked into these allegations in 2005 and because the statute of limitations determined not to pursue. Is that right, Pete?
THAMEL: Correct. I just talked to Tom Connellan, the Syracuse police spokesperson walking over here. And he said they're still very actively looking at this and he said he really couldn't say much more. So, ESPN reported last night that an unmarked car picked up the second alleged victim after they finished interviewing him for the outside the line story.
So, it is very safe to assume that they talked to him yesterday. But really officer of this police would tell me today, is that they're still actively looking at this case. They did look at this in 2003 and what the accuser told ESPN is that, it was outside the statute of limitations and couldn't move on.
COOPER: Pete, appreciate you coming to us tonight. Thank you. And Dr. Drew as well, thanks.
COOPER: Just ahead tonight: How close is the super committee to coming anywhere near a deal to trim the federal deficit with deadline fast approaching? Not good news. We're "Keeping Them Honest."
Plus, the drowning death of actress Natalie Wood nearly 30 years ago is being investigated again. Authorities have reopened the case. We are going to have an "Up Close" look at the investigation, try to figure out why they reopened it.
COOPER: Another keeping them honest report. Tonight the super committee is assigned to cut the deficit remains by nearly all accounts deadlocked with the deadline just days away. They have until Wednesday to reach a deal on $1.2 trillion in savings, less time, actually, because they're required by law to have a blueprint ready on Monday for review.
Six Democrats, six Republicans on the panel. They spent the day in closed-door meetings. What we're hearing them say in public, frankly, does not inspire much confidence. Here's super committee co- chair Senator Patty Murray earlier today.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
MURMORET: Where the divide is right now is on taxes and whether or not the wealthiest Americans should share in the sacrifice that all of us have to make.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, on Sunday, her Republican co-chair, Congressman Jeb Hensarling, acknowledged the deep divide on tax hikes, but also seemed to suggest that they were on the table.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
HENSARLING: We believe, frankly, that increasing tax revenues could hurt the economy, but within the context of a bipartisan negotiation with Democrats, clearly they are a reality.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Well, today, though, Republicans offered a scaled-back proposal that contained almost no tax revenues and Democrats rejected that. That's pretty much how it's gone since negotiations began.
Now if the super committee does not make its deadline, that's going to trigger automatic, across-the-board spending cuts to the tune of $1.2 trillion. And some of those automatic cuts would be to military programs.
Now, keep in mind Congress created that trigger so that it would hold its own feet to the fire. But Congress can also get rid of that trigger by simply voting to get rid of it.
Americans, meantime, are almost out of patience. In a new recent "New York times"/CBS poll, just nine percent approve of the job Congress is doing, nine percent. The super committee says it's going to work through the weekend to try to reach a deal. I spoke earlier with our political panel, congressional correspondent Kate Boulduan, chief political analyst Gloria Borger, and Mark NcKinnon, who is a former adviser for the Bush/McCain campaign, and co-founder of the nonpartisan political group No Labels.
COOPER: So, Kate, these automatic spending cuts, they were supposed to force Congress into making tough choices. Why does it seem they haven't made any progress at all?
KATE BOLDUAN, CNN CONGRESSIONAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Anderson, things are looking grim. And I think for the first time, we can really say, according to a lot of the sources I've been talking to, if things don't change dramatically up here in these negotiations, the committee is heading towards failure.
Just evidence of that is that without getting into a lot of the detail, Democratic and Republican leadership had been talking about what Republicans had called kind of plan b or a backup plan if the committee was not going to succeed. But that was quickly panned as it was mostly all spending cuts and very little revenue.
And so that really shows why they haven't gotten to the place where they need to be is things have broken down, and they're deadlocked largely over the same issues which they have been all along, which is taxes.
Democrats say taxes and revenue have to be part of any deal to be balanced. And Republicans simply say they remain firmly opposed to any tax increases unless it's part of a broader deal. And that's why the conversation has really, really started to shift from pushing for a deal and reaching their target to now how do we lessen the blow of the trigger, of that sequester, if it has to set in.
COOPER: But, Mark, I mean, we knew all this months ago. We knew this was where the positions were. This is what leadership and compromise is all about.
MARK MCKINNON, GLOBAL VICE CHAIRMAN, HILL AND KNOWLTON: Yes. And the real irony here is that the Congress and the White House punted this to the super committee, and now it appears increasingly likely that the super committee is going to kick it right back to the White House and the congress, because they're incapable of taking action. It's no wonder the public has lost complete confidence. They keep showing us over and over again that they are incapable of taking action even when it's very clear to everybody what has to be done.
And, you know, you look at the design of the committee, and it's pretty clear that both Republicans and Democrats intentionally put people on the committee that they knew at the end of the day would be partisan, wouldn't compromise, and in the end, there wouldn't be a deal. So it really comes as no surprise.
COOPER: Gloria, what's the point of setting these declines in the first place if they're not going to keep them?
GLORIA BORGER, CNN CHIEF POLITICAL ANALYST: Well, I think that even members of Congress understand that they're kind of a crisis- activated institution and they never do anything anymore unless they're up against a wall. And so they decided to put themselves up against a wall because they also knew that they had to set a deadline during the whole debt ceiling debacle because people had to take them seriously.
But, again, even when they did this, there was a certain amount of skepticism, as Mark says, that this committee could get done in three months what Congress hasn't been able to do in ten years. And guess what? They're unable to do it.
COOPER: So, Kate, can they find a way around these triggers? Can they actually do that?
BOLDUAN: I mean, any act of Congress can be overturned or undone by an act of Congress. So they technically could. But leadership, including President Obama, have said that they do not support that idea. They do not think that's a good idea because it would be, you know, seen as Congress shirking its responsibilities.
But there are some senators, like Senator John McCain among them, who would like to see overturned, if it would kick in, at least the part of the trigger that really deeply hits the defense budget. And there is clearly a concerted effort up here of at least trying to lessen the blow of the trigger. And we have to remind everybody, these don't set in, this trigger, until 2013. So they have a whole year to fight over how to carve it out.
BORGER: But this is just rationalizing failure, you know? They have failed.
BOLDUAN: I agree.
BORGER: And what they're trying to do is say, you know what, it's not going to be that bad, because the cuts won't take effect until 2013. The Democrats have walled off entitlements. The Republicans say, you know, we can undo some of these defense cuts. But it's all rationalization. The American public will understand that they have failed.
COOPER: And Mark, the consequence to that failure is what for the American people, for the United States?
MCKINNON: Well, it's a complete collapse in confidence in the institutions of government to do their job. And that translates into a collapse of confidence not just in the government, but in the economy. During the debate over the debt ceiling consumer confidence collapsed 20 points. And it wasn't even the outcome of that debate, it was the nature of the debate itself. So this will just be more evidence to the public, which already is -- you know, their confidence in Congress right now is at nine percent. I mean, it's down to family members of Congress who are supporting them.
COOPER: Mark McKinnon, appreciate you being on. Kate as well, Kate Boulduan and Gloria Borger. Thank you.
COOPER: Still ahead, a new look at a Hollywood mystery. What really happened the night actress Natalie Wood died? Authorities in Los Angeles shocked everybody by reopening the investigation into her death. It's been 30 years since she apparently drowned in the Pacific Ocean. We'll take a closer look at the case.
Also ahead, self-help author James Arthur Ray, remember him, the sweat lodge guy, the guru guy? Emotional courtroom plea moments before he was sentenced in the sweat lodge death of three of his followers. We'll tell you what happened.
COOPER: Up close tonight, a stunning development. A story that shook Hollywood 30 years ago, the death of Hollywood actress Natalie Wood. She drowned in 1981. She just finished filming what would be her last movie. She vanished while boating with her husband, actor Robert Wagner. They had been married, divorced, and then remarried. Her death was ruled an accident. Then today came this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
LT. JOHN CORINA, LOS ANGELES COUNTY SHERIFF'S DEPARTMENT HOMICIDE BUREAU: Recently, we have received information which we felt was substantial enough to make us take another look at this case.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: And on the "Today Show" the former captain of the boot that Wood disappeared from said this.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DENNIS DAVERN, FORMER CAPTAIN OF "THE SPLENDOUR": I did lie on a report years ago.
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And what did you lie about then?
DAVERN: It was just a -- I made mistakes by not telling the honest truth in a police report.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: We'll talk with our panel in a moment. But first, the latest developments.
Actress Natalie Wood was a Hollywood legend, known not only for her films, but also for the mystery surrounding her death 30 years ago. Wood drowned at the age of 43. At the time it was ruled an accident. The case is now being re-opened for investigation.
CORINA: Recently, we have received information which we felt was substantial, enough to make us take another look at this case.
COOPER: Here's what we know about Wood's death. On Thanksgiving weekend in 1981, Wood, husband Robert Wagner, and Christopher Walken went boating off the California coast. During the night of November 28th, an argument broke out. Wagner was admittedly jealous of Walken. Police were told after that argument Wood left her room and disappeared, as did the dinghy, or smaller boat, attached to the yacht. Her body was found floating in the water about a mile away. The coroner's office says Wood was drunk at the time of her death.
DR. THOMAS NOGUCHI, LOS ANGELES COUNTY CORONOR: Shortly after midnight on Sunday morning, she apparently attempted to get on to the dingy, slipped, and fell in the water.
COOPER: But the ship's captain, Dennis Davern, who co-wrote a book about Wood's death, has come forward with a different version of events. He said he withheld information from investigators at the direction of Robert Wagner.
DAVERN: We necessarily really didn't lie. We just didn't tell everything. And it was agreed that what we spoke about between the three of us is what we would tell the investigators.
COOPER: Davern also says Wagner waited four hours after Wood disappeared before calling the Coast Guard and that the argument between Wagner and Wood may have turned violent.
DAVERN: There was a lot of physical activity going on in the stateroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: What do you mean?
DAVERN: Just noises, movement in the stateroom.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Like violence, yelling?
DAVERN: Yes. And then the argument went to the aft deck, and they argued back there for a little while. And then they became silent.
COOPER: The occupancy report showed Wood had two dozen bruises on her body, as well as a laceration on her cheek. Davern and Wood's sister have both publicly said they believe Wagner's argument with Wood had something to do with her death. They never believed that Wood, who spoke candidly about her fear of the water, would attempt to ride a boat on her own at night. Police say Wagner's not a suspect in this reopened investigation. In a statement, the Wagner family says they, quote, "fully support the efforts of the L.A. county sheriff's department and trust they will evaluate whether any new information relating to the death of Natalie Wood Wagner is valid and that it comes from a credible source or sources other than those simply trying to profit from the 30-year anniversary of her tragic death."
Joining me now is "Inside Edition" chief correspondent Jim Moret and Sam Kashner, contributing editor at "Vanity Fair." Sam, why do you think this investigation was reopened now?
SAM KASHNER, CONTRIBUTING EDITOR, "VANITY FAIR": I think there are four elements. One is the reprise of the story you just mentioned in the new "Vanity Fair" special about sex and scandals. The other is there has been a petition in Los Angeles to reopen the case. A lot of her fans and people were dissatisfied with the original investigation. And I think that the third element is "48 Hours" --
COOPER: The CBS --
KASHNER: Right, which really took my story, which I wrote originally 10 years ago, and really ran with it. And they're talking to ear and eye witnesses --
COOPER: Ear witnesses -- people who were on boats nearby in the water.
KASHNER: Right. There was a woman on a boat nearby who insists that she heard a woman's cry -- a woman cry -- a woman's cry for help, you know?
COOPER: So you don't think it was any one particularly coming to the police department and saying, here's some new information. You think it was more things that you had written and the idea that this was back in the atmosphere?
KASHNER: I think so. And I think LAPD doesn't want to be behind the curve. I mean, they don't quite know what "48 Hours" has cooked up. And they just want to make sure. I think they would like to put this thing to rest too because it's been 30 years.
COOPER: Jim, you think the reopening of this case may have something to do with sort of the politics of the police department, right?
JIM MORET, ATTORNEY: Well, I mean, the timing today, I agree that perhaps they want to be in front of the curve. It is interesting to me when you listen to the news conference, they said they got new information that they deemed substantial, but they have yet to talk to Robert Wagner. They have yet to talk to Christopher Walken. They have yet to really re-interview Dennis Davern, the captain of the boat. You'd think that they would have done something of an investigative nature before making this big announcement when all we really here is that Robert Wagner is not a suspect.
One thing I thought was interesting in the timing. If you Google "L.A. County Sheriff's Department" today, all you will see is this investigation. But coincidentally, today is also a day that a seven- person commission is investigating alleged sheriff's department abuse of inmates at the L.A. county jail. The sheriff's department could have announced this on the anniversary or after this special if new information did, indeed, come out that they deemed credible. So I just thought the whole aura of the event seemed odd to me.
COOPER: What are some of the thinking big things, Sam, that we don't know about what happened on that boat? Because allegedly there was a fight, and Robert Wagner acknowledges he fought with her that night. The presumption is she got into a dingy and her body was found a distance away.
KASHNER: Right. But also there were precious hours after she was missing from her stateroom where they didn't look for her. And where Dennis, to his credit, I think, Dennis Davern --
COOPER: The boat captain.
KASHNER: Yes, the boat captain, does admit that he allowed himself to be constrained by Robert Wagner from calling the authorities.
COOPER: Why didn't Robert Wagner want the authorities called?
KASHNER: I mean I think because he was Robert Wagner and it was Natalie Wood that was missing. And in a way, I think this is a lesson too about how celebrity, a certain level of fame can compromise judgment. You try to manage -- you know, stage manage, at least a tragic accident. We saw that with Chappaquiddick on some level too.
COOPER: Jim, for you, what are the big questions you want answered?
MORET: Well, I mean, I think if Dennis Davern has a problem with his conscience, I wish it had occurred before he wrote a book. That's one of my problems with this. I agree this has been a mystery for years. There have been questions about this death for years. Even though it was ruled an accident, Natalie Wood's sister has raised questions, certainly saying that her sister was terrified of water. So it would be nice to finally, I agree, put some closure to this.
COOPER: The idea that she was terrified of water, wouldn't get into a dingy -- there was alcohol in her system, so she was probably -- she'd been drinking, so her judgment could have been impaired.
KASHNER: Oh, absolutely. They all were, actually.
COOPER: They all were?
COOPER: It's a fascinating article in "Vanity Fair" on newsstands right now. I appreciate it. Jim Moret, thanks as well.
Coming up next, self-help expert James Arthur Ray learns his punishment for that sweat lodge death. We'll let you know how long he'll be in prison for.
Plus, the FDA is revoking its approval for a breast cancer drug. What you need to know about its decision, ahead.
And the "Ridicu-list." We'll be right back.
GARY TUCHMAN, CNN CORRESPONDENT: Anderson's back shortly with the "Ridicu-list." First, in tonight's "Connection," there's an app for that. It made its national premiere during elections last week in Oregon -- iPad voting, people with disabilities using iPads to electronically fill out absentee ballots. Other states are expected to follow suit for next year's presidential election.
Now a "360" news and business bulletin starting with police at UC Davis, pepper spraying a line of occupy protesters. It's amazing video, directly in their faces, injuring 11, two seriously enough to need hospital treatment. Ten were arrested. The university says it gave written and oral warnings to leave.
James Arthur Ray got a two-year prison sentence for the deaths of three people during a sweat lodge ceremony in Arizona. Prosecutors cited dangerously high temps in the sweat lodge and inadequate supervision by Ray.
And the FDA is dropping approval of the drug Avastin for treating breast cancer. The reason -- potentially deadly side effects outweigh the benefits. Avastin racked up more than $6 billion in sales last year. Up next, Anderson with the "Ridicu-list."
COOPER: Time now for the "Ridicu-list." And tonight we're adding all the debate over whether pizza is a vegetable. You might have heard about this. Congress has put the kibosh on an effort to make school lunches healthier. It all comes down to tomato paste, namely, what is the absolute minimum amount that can be counted as a vegetable in a school lunch?
Proposed new rules would have increased it, which would be great, especially for the many, many kids who love drinking tomato paste. But Congress decided all you need is two tablespoons, and voila, that's a vegetable serving, which essentially classifies pizza a vegetable, or what would pass as pizza in the school cafeteria.
Now, there's been a lot of talk about this over the past week. Some big questions are in play. Is pizza a vegetable? Is tomato paste even really a vegetable? And what about that thing about a tomato being a fruit, whatever happened to that? I think the most pithy comments to this question came from "THE SITUATION ROOM." Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
WOLF BLITZER, CNN HOST, "THE SITUATION ROOM": Let's check in with Jack for the "Cafferty File." Jack?
JACK CAFFERTY, CNN CONTRIBUTOR: Just a quick follow-up on to Lisa Sylvester's report on Congress trying to decide whether pizza is a vegetable or not. Congress is a vegetable.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Jack Cafferty, two table spoons of saucy.
I also like Jamie Oliver's take on the news on Jimmy Kimmel live. Take a look.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
JAMIE OLIVER, AUTHOR: We've got big vegetables here, we've got medium vegetables here, even little bites. And the best thing about these vegetables is that they're always in season.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Of course, there is a serious side to this. Food companies lobbied to keep pizza and French fries in the cafeterias, and a lot of people have a problem with big corporate interests being put ahead of kids' interest because, as Dr. Sanjay Gupta pointed out on "AMERICAN MORNING," what kids are eating at school can have long- lasting effects.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
DR. SANJAY GUPTA, CNN CHIEF MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: About two- thirds of kids get their majority of their calories from school lunches and about a third get at least some of their calories from school lunches. So this is not only important in terms of providing calories, but also dictating the way kids eat now and how they might eat later in life.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
COOPER: Listen to the good doctor. Trust me, you do not want to grow up thinking pizza is a vegetable. Otherwise, fast forward 30 years and you try spinach for the first time and this is what happens.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I'll try, all right.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Wow.
UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: You need a sip?
UNIDENTIFIED MALE: OK, that's gross. It's also like slithery and. What's on that?
(END VIDEO CLIP) COOPER: It's actually not all bad news, this pizza is a vegetable thing. I'm thinking it will help a lot of people get to that five servings of fruits and vegetables a day thing, especially if you count wine as a fruit. Two slices of pizza, three glasses of wine, bam, you're there. Suddenly certain "360" staff members are the healthiest people I know on the "Ridicu-list."
COOPER: That's it for us. Thanks for watching. "ERIN BURNETT OUTFRONT" starts now.